The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s meeting to pick squads for the West Indies tour has been pushed to Sunday amid intense focus on skipper Virat Kohli’s availability and former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future.
The meeting was scheduled for Friday but was postponed following Committee of Administrators’ directive that the chairman of the panel, instead of BCCI secretary, will convene it.
“There are some legal modalities that need to be followed due to the rule change and it took some time,” a senior BCCI functionary was quoted as saying. “Also, the BCCI’s cricket operations team needs to apprise the chairman of the availability of the captain for the meeting. The fitness reports of the players will be available on Saturday evening.”
Dhoni, whose finishing abilities with the bat has been on the wane, would be the centre of discussion amid speculation that he is contemplating retirement even though he hasn’t spoken about it.
Dhoni’s selection or omission would be an indicator of things to come in the future. India are set to play three Twenty20 Internationals, as many One-day Internationals and two Tests in a full-fledged tour to the Caribbean, starting August 3.
Keeping in mind the World T20 next year, the selectors might opt for upcoming wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant, who is seen as the successor to Dhoni. The 38-year-old was dropped from the T20 series against West Indies and Australia last October and there is a good chance that he won’t be included this time around too.
Pant was recently called up as replacement for the injured Shikhar Dhawan in the World Cup, from where India were ousted in the semi-final stage by New Zealand. Another issue that would surely be debated is the availability of Kohli, who has been on the road for a while.
Kohli could be rested considering the long domestic season ahead, which begins in September. If that is the case, Rohit Sharma will be the captain for the shorter formats.
However, with the two Tests being part of the ICC Test Championship, Kohli is likely to be in the Test squad. A similar approach could be taken for pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
The No 4 conundrum continues
The MSK Prasad-led panel would also work on restructuring the middle-order as it was one of the primary reasons for India’s exit from the World Cup semi-final. Stabilising the number four spot will be a priority.
Picking the middle-order could be a headache as the panel are spoilt for choice: Karnataka duo Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey along with Mumbai’s Shreyas Iyer have been knocking the doors after scoring heavily in domestic cricket.
Pandey scored a match-winning 100 for India A against the West Indies A in the unofficial third ODI. After Ambati Rayudu’s sudden retirement and Vijay Shankar’s failure to own the number four spot, the focus will be on the Pandey, Agarwal and Iyer.
End of the road for Karthik, Jadhav?
Also, the selectors might consider the Punjab youngster Shubhman Gill and Mumbai’s Prithvi Shaw. But Shaw’s hip injury could come in the way of him being considered. A determined Gill has been among the runs in the West Indies tour for India A.
It could also be end of the road for the experienced Dinesh Karthik and all-rounder Kedar Jadhav, who failed to make a mark in the World Cup. If Dhawan, who was ruled out of the World Cup owing to a thumb fracture is deemed fit, he would, in all probability, open with Rohit Sharma.
Other regulars, including KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should retain their places in the limited-overs squads.
Chahar, Saini impress
Teenage leg-spinner Rahul Chahar could be among the rookies who are at least discussed among selectors, given the good run he is having with the A team in the West Indies.
Among new faces, Delhi speedster Navdeep Saini is the running for a call-up as he has impressed in the ongoing India A tour of West Indies and even picked a fifer.
The selectors could also look at the likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, and Avesh Khan apart from regular pacers Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who could be retained. Ahmed being a left-arm pacer adds variety to the attack.
The choice of wicket-keepers for the Tests would be watched with interest as Pant did the job in the last series India played in Australia. With a fit-again Wriddiman Saha also available for selection, it remains to be seen if the panel will bring him back.
The T20 Internationals are scheduled from August 3-6, while the ODIs will take place from August 8 to 14. The two-match Test series will be played from August 22 to September 3.